93 books like Pacific Crossing

By Elizabeth Sinn,

Here are 93 books that Pacific Crossing fans have personally recommended if you like Pacific Crossing. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Sea of Poppies

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

Sea of Poppies is the first of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy—an epic of global opium trade that features Zachary Reid, a mixed-race American whose story unfolds as it connects Baltimore to Bengal to Canton across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  

Filled with heartbreak and humor the trilogy invokes Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as Ghosh revives the primary sources of the Old China Trade and brings them into refreshing literary life. 

Ghosh’s novel complements another (very different) gem of historically based literary fiction featuring American involvement in opium smuggling and the ensuing First Opium War: Timothy Mo’s Insular Possession

By Amitav Ghosh,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Sea of Poppies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of this epic saga, set just before the Opium Wars, is an old slaving-ship, The Ibis. Its destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean, its crew a motley array of sailors and stowaways, coolies and convicts. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a truly diverse cast of Indians and Westerners, from a bankrupt Raja to a widowed villager, from an evangelical English opium trader to a mulatto American freedman. As their old family ties are washed away they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais or ship-brothers. An…


Book cover of The Golden Ghetto: The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784-1844

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

This is the authoritative historical account of heritage wealth related to American participation in the Old China Trade (before and after the First Opium War). 

Downs details the kinship alliances of US family firms over a century and describes the logistics of trade as well as the historical archives related to it.

In a canon of authoritative scholarship on early US trade with China, The Golden Ghetto stands next to the subsequent fine books by Jay Dolin, James Fichter, John Haddad, Dane Morrison, Dael Norwood, John Pomfret, and Dong Wang, and the scholarship addressing Qing-era trade regulation by Paul A. Van Dyke and John D. Wong.

By Jacques Downs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Golden Ghetto as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before the opening of the treaty ports in the 1840s, Canton was the only Chinese port where foreign merchants were allowed to trade. The Golden Ghetto takes us into the world of one of this city’s most important foreign communities―the Americans―during the decades between the American Revolution of 1776 and the signing of the Sino-US Treaty of Wanghia in 1844. American merchants lived in isolation from Chinese society in sybaritic, albeit usually celibate luxury. Making use of exhaustive research, Downs provides an especially clear explanation of the Canton commercial setting generally and of the role of American merchants. Many of…


Book cover of Everything in Style: Harriett Low's Macau

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

Lamas’s work offers a deep dive into the life of the young American woman Harriett Low who lived in Macau from 1829 to 1833. 

Harriett accompanied her aunt and her uncle, who supervised trade of Russell & Company up the Pearl River in Canton. Although the Qing-era regulations forbade foreign (Western) women from traveling beyond Macau, Harriett broke this law. 

In Macao, she wrote about her daily life, of falling in love, and having the British painter George Chinnery render her portrait. Most importantly for readers today, she wrote about her life (and reading) in diary letters that she sent to her sister back in the US. 

Lamas engaging account draws on Arthur W. Hummel and Nan P. Hodges’s masterful publication of Low’s diaries. As Lamas notes, Harriett’s life after her residence in Macao was underwhelming. However, the Low family fortune echoed across the century. 

Harriett’s nephew Seth Low served…

By Rosemarie Lamas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything in Style as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Macau in the 1820s and 1830s was the centre of life for foreigners trading with China through the only permitted gateway of Canton. To this European enclave on the China coast in 1829 came Harriett Low, a young American accompanying her aunt and uncle, a trader from Salem, Massachusetts. Throughout her five-year stay, she wrote a diary that both shows her lively personality and gives us a rich picture of life in Macau. Rosmarie Lamas focuses on that picture of Macau, embedding extracts from the diary into her text to create an interesting account of that place and its society.…


Book cover of Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue in a Doomed World

Kendall A. Johnson Author Of The New Middle Kingdom: China and the Early American Romance of Free Trade

From my list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scholar of literature, literary history, and American Studies based at the University of Hong Kong where I landed thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008. Prior to this I was very happily in Philadelphia, researching authors and artists who alluded to lucrative trade in the Far East when rendering scenes of the Far West premised on the promotion or the protest of continental Manifest Destiny. Archival materials at the Library Company and Swarthmore College inspired me to visit the places about which I was writing. Travelling to places that feature in my scholarly projects keeps me busy studying languages and humbly amazed by the enduring cultural varieties of our shared humanity.

Kendall's book list on the fog of Opium Wars in US-China relations

Kendall A. Johnson Why did Kendall love this book?

The cultural and financial legacy of the two Opium Wars and the general opium economy lingered well into the twentieth century, through the First and Second World Wars.

In the mid-1930s, the American journalist Emily Hahn lived in Shanghai where she opened an astonishing window on the immense change over a century, culminating in the downfall of the Qing Empire and the struggle of early national China to counter Japanese imperialism. 

As a prolific New Yorker journalist, novelist, and autobiographer Hahn renders accounts of cross-cultural intimacy and literary ambition that unfold against the expanding war zones of the Second World War. 

Grescoe’s compelling biography pulls the reader into a seductive circle of opium smoking and literary salon conversation, coordinated by the Shanghainese writer and publisher Zau Sinmay (Shao Sunmei; 邵洵美). 

Grecoe then charts the harrowing and melancholy demise of its members.

By Taras Grescoe,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shanghai Grand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the eve of WWII, the foreign controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous for the twentieth century's most outlandish adventurers, all under the watchful eye of the illustrious Sir Victor Sassoon. Emily Hahn was a legendary New Yorker writer who would cover China for nearly fifty years, playing an integral part in opening Asia up to the West. But at the height of the Depression, Emily "Mickey" Hahn, who had just arrived in Shanghai nursing a broken heart after a disappointing affair with an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, was convinced she would never love again. When she enters Sassoon's glamorous…


Book cover of China's Last Empire: The Great Qing

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

I think this is the best up-to-date history of the Qing dynasty. I use it for teaching because it’s completely reliable, covers everything you might need to know, and lays it all out clearly.

It also has a really good balance between the history of major events like the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion and the social history and context. And I like the fact that it explains the big debates that scholars are having in clear and simple terms.

By William T. Rowe, Timothy Brook (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China's Last Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a brisk revisionist history, William Rowe challenges the standard narrative of Qing China as a decadent, inward-looking state that failed to keep pace with the modern West. The Great Qing was the second major Chinese empire ruled by foreigners. Three strong Manchu emperors worked diligently to secure an alliance with the conquered Ming gentry, though many of their social edicts - especially the requirement that ethnic Han men wear queues - were fiercely resisted. As advocates of a 'universal' empire, Qing rulers also achieved an enormous expansion of the Chinese realm over the course of three centuries, including the…


Book cover of The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams, and the Making of Modern China

Bill Hayton Author Of The Invention of China

From my list on the emergence of modern China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent more than a decade exploring the historic roots of Asia’s modern political problems – and discovering the accidents and mistakes that got us where we are today. I spent 22 years with BBC News, including a year in Vietnam and another in Myanmar. I’ve written four books on East and Southeast Asia and I’m an Associate Fellow with the Asia-Pacific Programme at the London-based thinktank, Chatham House. I love breaking down old stereotypes and showing readers that the past is much more interesting than a series of clichés about ‘us’ and ‘them’. Perhaps through that, we can recognise that our future depends on collaboration and cooperation.

Bill's book list on the emergence of modern China

Bill Hayton Why did Bill love this book?

A brilliant account of the two Opium Wars showing how they have been remembered in particular ways in order to make modern political points. Lovell shows us how political operators on both sides used the question of the opium trade to further their own interests. It exposes the nasty business of imperialism but also takes down a lot of myths about the wars. The book allows us to see the conflicts both in terms of what happened at the time, and how views over those events changed over the following century and a half. She explores the international history of opium and how it became linked with racist representations of Chinese overseas and how this continues to affect relations between peoples and governments today.

By Julia Lovell,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Opium War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A gripping read as well as an important one.' Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War explores how China's national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how…


Book cover of The Talented Women of the Zhang Family

Henrietta Harrison Author Of The Perils of Interpreting: The Extraordinary Lives of Two Translators between Qing China and the British Empire

From my list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of modern China in the department of Chinese at the University of Oxford. I started off working on the twentieth century but have been drawn back into the Qing dynasty. It’s such an interesting and important period and one that British students often don’t know much about! 

Henrietta's book list on Qing Dynasty China from an Oxford historian

Henrietta Harrison Why did Henrietta love this book?

I loved this book because the story of the Zhang family brings the history of the Qing dynasty alive as real women experienced it. Qing dynasty people can seem very different from us, and it’s often hard to get a sense of their characters, but Mann does this by taking us right into their homes and making this a story of the three women who were also writers, poets, and teachers.

We hear about their studies, their loves, and their families’ grief when they died, and just when we’ve really got to know them, we find that they were also living through and writing about some of the great events of the nineteenth century like the Opium Wars and the Taiping Rebellion. It’s also beautifully researched by a great scholar.

By Susan Mann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Talented Women of the Zhang Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of China in the nineteenth century usually features men as the dominant figures in a chronicle of warfare, rebellion, and dynastic decline. This book challenges that model and provides a different account of the era, history as seen through the eyes of women. Basing her remarkable study on the poetry and memoirs of three generations of literary women of the Zhang family - Tang Yaoqing, her eldest daughter, and her eldest granddaughter - Susan Mann illuminates a China that has been largely invisible. Drawing on a stunning array of primary materials - published poetry, gazetteer articles, memorabilia -…


Book cover of The Borrowed

Mo Moulton Author Of The Mutual Admiration Society: How Dorothy L. Sayers and Her Oxford Circle Remade the World for Women

From my list on fans of Dorothy L. Sayers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I got hooked on mystery novels as a kid reading the Encyclopedia Brown stories. Something about the combination of a great story and a puzzle to solve is irresistible to me.  As a historian, I’m interested in communities, and especially how people understood themselves as being part of the new kinds of economic, political, and cultural communities that emerged in the first half of the twentieth century. When I learned about Dorothy L. Sayers’ lifelong writing group, the wryly named ‘Mutual Admiration Society’, I was thrilled at the chance to combine my professional interests with my personal passion for detective fiction. 

Mo's book list on fans of Dorothy L. Sayers

Mo Moulton Why did Mo love this book?

This set of interlocked novellas opens with a comatose detective – a legend in his time – apparently conducting an interrogation through means of electrical signals sent from his brain to a computer. I was skeptical.

I’m a fan of the rules that Sayers and the Detection Club developed: no magic, no ‘jiggery-pokery’, no mystery poisons or miracle drugs, only the fair play of putting the evidence before the reader and letting them practice deduction. My skepticism was totally misplaced.

Chan Ho-Kei’s brilliant work tells the history of twentieth-century Hong Kong through the careers of two policemen. Each novella pays homage to the classic genres of crime fiction, and they build up to twists and revelations that are both shocking and completely faithful to fair play as Sayers knew it.

By Chan Ho-Kei, Jeremy Tiang (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Borrowed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Six interlocking stories. One spellbinding novel. The year is 2013, and Hong Kong's greatest detective is dying. For fifty years, Inspector Kwan quietly solved cases while the world changed around him. Now his partner Detective Lok has come to his deathbed for help with one final case. Where there is murder, there is humanity. This bold and intricate crime novel spans five decades of love, honour, race, class, jealousy and revenge in one of the most intriguing nations in the world. This is the story of a man who let justice shine in the space between black and white. This…


Book cover of Wandering Souls

Irfan Shah Author Of Sigh For A Strange Land

From my list on displaced people.

Why am I passionate about this?

A combination of things led me to this topic: My father was forced to leave his home in northern India during partition and was therefore a child refugee. In 2016, I was filming in Ukraine and became hugely interested in what was happening there. I have looked for a way to help ever since then. Discovering Monica Stirling’s novel about refugees from East Europe, I realised that here was an opportunity to help give voice to the refugee experience; to help raise funds for Ukraine, and to help bring back to life an incredible story written by an author who deserves to be rediscovered.

Irfan's book list on displaced people

Irfan Shah Why did Irfan love this book?

A brutal but beautifully told fiction based on true events, it explores the aftermath of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam – folding into the narrative, such horrific events as the Koh Kra massacre. 

The protagonists are 16-year-old Anh, her 13-year-old brother Minh and their 10-year-old brother Thanh. During an ill-fated sea crossing to Hong Kong, they are separated from their parents and siblings. After passing through camps and detention centres, they find themselves in the Britain of the 80s.

What follows is a clear-eyed, often heart-rending look at the immigrant experience. Pin’s writing style is precise and understated – and perhaps the more powerful it. Among the many elements that make the book so beguiling is the addition of Dao, one of the siblings’ lost brothers narrating parts of the story from limbo.

By Cecile Pin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wandering Souls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2023

“A deeply humane and genre-defying work of love and uncompromising hope.” ―Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Time Is a Mother

There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies―everything in between is speculation.

After the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Minh, and Thanh journey to Hong Kong with the promise that their parents and younger siblings will soon follow. But when tragedy strikes, the three children are left orphaned, and sixteen-year-old Anh becomes the caretaker for her two younger brothers overnight.

In…


Book cover of Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong

Stephen Vines Author Of Defying the Dragon: Hong Kong and the World's Largest Dictatorship

From my list on Hong Kong and China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to Hong Kong as a journalist in 1987, expecting to stay a few years and then move on to the next story. But the former British colony quickly got its teeth into me, not least because I was there during the tumultuous years of transition to Chinese rule. I am always in the market to understand more about this wonderful place, which I left reluctantly in 2021 in fear that the fast-bellowing crackdown on freedom of speech was coming my way. Departure has, if anything, given me a greater appetite for reading more about Hong Kong and China. I hope these books will explain why this is so.

Stephen's book list on Hong Kong and China

Stephen Vines Why did Stephen love this book?

Louisa Lim has a deep knowledge of Hong Kong. In this book, she uses her considerable journalistic skills to reflect the voices of the people involved in the 2019/20 protest movement.

She also examines the profound cultural changes that have taken place in Hong Kong, offering real insight from a side view.

By Louisa Lim,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Indelible City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

An award-winning journalist and longtime Hong Konger indelibly captures the place, its people, and the untold history they are claiming, just as it is being erased.

The story of Hong Kong has long been dominated by competing myths: to Britain, a “barren rock” with no appreciable history; to China, a part of Chinese soil from time immemorial, at last returned to the ancestral fold. For decades, Hong Kong’s history was simply not taught, especially to Hong Kongers, obscuring its origins as a place of refuge and rebellion. When protests erupted in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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